News reports have been filled with stories of hacking and internet security breaches in recent months, from the leak of several celebrities’ nude photos after a massive-scale iCloud security breach to the hacking attack on Sony Pictures that unleashed a torrent of secret emails and messages from high-level executives.
Hacking is the newest, most pervasive form of theft. A hacker can easily access financial records and personal information over the internet to take over bank accounts, assume a person’s identity or leak sensitive information.
Today, we can be online at any time, from almost any location with our phones, desktops, laptops or tablets, and more and more information can be stored and accessed from anywhere. While sharing systems that utilize online storage can be convenient time and money savers, these systems make it easier for non-authorized users to gain access. As more and more people rely on internet storage systems for personal information, hacking crimes reach increasingly new levels, which can lead to serious criminal penalties.
Computer and Internet Fraud
Any instance of breaking into a computer system, regardless of what your intention is, is considered hacking. Most often, hackers have the goal of accessing sensitive information or modifying existing information. Malicious hacking can be any instance of illegally gathering computer data or any information stored on a device. However, increasingly seemingly innocuous conduct can be viewed as hacking as well.
North Carolina law classifies any instance of unlawful access into a computer with basic intentions—i.e., not with the intent of defrauding, obtaining information, or scheming against the owner of the information—as a Class 1 misdemeanor. If the hacking is done with malicious intent—scheming, defrauding, or stealing information or property valued at more than $1,000—the crime is considered a Class G felony. If the computer is government property, hacking crimes are bumped up to Class F felonies.
In Federal Court, unauthorized access to a computer or interception of an electronic communication can constitute a felony. There are, however, Federal misdemeanors that cover this conduct as well.
Defending Against Hacking Charges
As hacking becomes more prevalent and more sophisticated, it has become more difficult to prove a person’s involvement without hard evidence. Hackers can use “zombie” networks and remote access to hide their tracks, and in order to make hacking charges stick, Raleigh white collar defense lawyers say law enforcement officials need to find proof that a suspect was using one of these devices or networks at the time the hacking took place.
Because of the types of information that are stored on computers and online, these crimes are taken very seriously. In the course of an investigation, suspects may find their computers and personal devices (phones, iPads, etc.) seized and searched, sometimes without due process on the part of the law enforcement officials. Investigators may be reviewing a suspect’s emails, messages and internet browsing history, which could turn into a violation of the suspect’s rights, especially if no formal charges have been filed.
If you are under investigation for a white collar crime, you need the help of a defense attorney immediately, even if the accusations against you are completely false. At Cheshire, Parker, Schneider and Bryan, we work with clients who have been accused of hacking or other white collar crimes. To get started on your case, contact one of our white collar defense lawyers in Raleigh today.